Wildlife buff Darren Wee picked James Cook University as it ranks among the top five institutions in the world for aquaculture research
By Aster Tan
Oct 19, 2022
Of all the unusual pets one could have, a crab must surely be one of the rarest and oddest.
Mr Darren Wee named his, a vibrant purple crustacean, “Hannibal” and loved nothing more than sitting by its tank, watching it “go about its day”.
An aquaculture science and technology student at the Singapore campus of James Cook University (JCU), Mr Wee’s fascination with the ocean and marine life stems from his childhood days when his parents would take him on mangrove trails to spot wildlife.
“I enjoyed walking around and looking for all the animals in the trees and mud. It felt so serene standing on an observation tower and watching a flock of birds rest on an open mudflat,” he says.
Thanks to his trekking trips, Mr Wee began to entertain thoughts of becoming a marine biologist. However, he was initially unsure about the career choice, and pursued a general science diploma in molecular biotechnology instead.
His desire to pursue marine biology was reignited during national service, when he and a platoon mate began chatting about their future.
“He shared his excitement at getting accepted into a university course that he was very passionate about. Seeing him so happy, I decided to follow my heart too,” Mr Wee says.
After completing national service, he applied to study aquaculture at JCU. JCU is a leader in aquaculture research, ranking among the top five institutions in the world for the field. The university’s Tropical Future Institute focuses on research into the sustainable production of aquaculture species in Asia, as well as the business and trade in the region.
Students get to explore the scientific and practical applications of breeding, rearing and harvesting of plants and animals in different water environments. They gain an understanding of the biodiversity of species and how they are farmed, the design of aquaculture systems, and the basics of nutrition for different species.
Since starting his course in July last year, Mr Wee has taken to it like a fish to water. He particularly enjoys his lab sessions where he dissects plants and animals to view their organs and cells under the microscope; swabs fish organs on agar plates to check for bacterial diseases; and extracts DNA from fishes to run tests. He has even reared fishes for an experiment investigating how their diet affects their growth.
Next trimester, the 23-year-old is looking forward to going on an overseas field trip to Phuket, Thailand, where he will investigate local reefs and coastal habitats.
Mr Wee is excited about the future of the aquaculture industry as it is relatively new in Singapore. He hopes to contribute to new advances and breakthroughs one day.
“Or, I could just start my own fish farm and lead a quiet life,” he says.